Royal Wedding Musings
Until Thursday night I was utterly unmoved by the prospect of a royal wedding; the wall-to-wall media coverage, the “buildup” and the “anticipation”, the mindless speculation about dukedoms and dresses; I could scarcely have been less interested. No, that’s not quite true; in fact, I was enjoying being scathing, cynical and generally sceptical about the whole affair. It was, after all, irrelevant, expensive and a waste of everybody’s time, jamming yet another bank holiday into what is fast becoming a two-week period of uninterrupted sun-drenched lazing about; fine if you haven’t got much to do, but not a lot of use for those of us trying to get people in offices to actually pick up the phone from time to time.
Then, lo and behold, I saw the news footage of William going for an impromptu walkabout on Thursday evening to greet some of the (how to put this kindly?) enthusastic fans preparing to camp out to keep their places on the crowd control barriers outside Westminster Abbey. This, we were told, was no planned PR stunt but a spontaneous decision. From then on we were supplied with a steady stream of moments like this that reminded us that this was the coming of age of a new generation of royals. William and Harry arrived early, leaving time to talk to their friends before the ceremony. When Catherine reached the choir and Harry looked over his shoulder, his impish grin spoke volumes. We are told by a forensic lip reader employed by a news agency that William’s words to Catherine at the altar were “You look stunning, babe.” How very human. How unlike his father, who one senses could have summoned neither the emotion nor the words for such a moment. The newlyweds’ departure from Buckingham Palace in a gorgeous blue Aston Martin DB6 Volante, borrowed from Charles, was a moment of delightful spontaneity, the sort of youthful impetuousness we had learned not to expect.
I also saw what a lot of other people seem to have seen today, a young couple in love. They’re excited about this, just as much as any of the people who camped out on the Mall. A generation of Britons scarred by the footage of Charles and Diana’s wedding, replayed over and over with the benefit of hindsight, has had its fairytale renewed, amplified even, by the intervention of a relatively ordinary girl from the Home Counties who today managed to look a million times more poised, prepared and comfortable than the terrifyingly young Diana did in 1981.
On a personal note, I am gently but firmly defending my right to be as excited about Irish Guards uniforms, Garter sashes and the shape of James Middleton’s collar as most of my female friends seem to be about the Duchess of Cambridge’s Alexander McQueen number. It was a joy to see people wearing morning dress properly, something we are in danger of losing in the face of lurid polyester cravats and matching hired outfits (thankyou, Channel 4 reality shows). William’s dinner suit looked good too, immaculate without being costumey. May it spark a renaissance in young men dressing up and knowing the appropriate dress code for the occasion. Well, I can dream, can’t I?
Things it was definitely ok to enjoy about today included Parry’s glorious coronation anthem I Was Glad and the numerous other smatterings of English music throughout including more Parry in the form of Jerusalem as well as Walton. There was some truly excellent production work by the BBC team, who seemed to have rigged cameras in impossible places to display the architecture to its greatest potential, one glorious shot rotating to display, from above, the crossing and transepts.
From the moment Jake Humphrey relayed every detail of his journey to RAF Coningsby to rendezvous with the Battle of Britain Memorial Flight (something that turned out to be largely pointless when it turned out that we couldn’t hear him and he couldn’t hear anything at all), it was clear that this was going to be the first social media royal wedding, and sure enough it was tweeted to within an inch of its life. What no-one could have predicted was that in the midst of all the pageantry, pomp and circumstance, the tweetosphere (twittersphere? twitterati? Does anyone have a word for this that ISN’T obnoxious?) would fixate to an astonishing, train-wreck-esque, slightly-disturbing-but-at-the-same-time-fascinating degree on sister-of-the-bride Pippa Middleton’s bottom. Top tweets included former England cricket captain Michael Vaughan, who weighed in with “Lets all pray for Harry.. pray that he gets lucky tonight with Pippa.. #goonharry” and Times columnist/comedienne Caitlin Moran’s pretty accurate summary that, in the eyes of the tweeting beholders, “This wedding has mainly been about Pippa Middleton’s amazing arse, hasn’t it?”
Pippa didn’t get all the social media limelight, however; at the time of writing some 42,000 people felt sufficiently moved by Princess Beatrice of York’s Ridiculous Royal Wedding Hat to express that feeling on Facebook. The internet and minor royals combining to remind us that there is no accounting for taste.